The Price of Demand (Reintegration Edit 1)

“Oi, Sias, here we are!”

The tower rose to an imposing fifteen meters. Workmen climbed up and down a solid interior staircase or being raised on crude lifts hoisted by the power of their fellows at the top.

The grizzled foreman stood at the base of the tower, huge hands wrenching a gear that wound a rope, raising several of the men in his team higher to the unfinished portion of the tower’s top level. Youngish eyes, prematurely hardened, kept a hawkish watch over the site.

Waldon Sias turned to the younger workman who’d called out. “I want that southern wall built up by mid-day. You’ll double-time it today, and if I catch you sluggards lazing around you’ll wish you were in the army, I’ll come down on you so hard!”

“Good morning, Sias. Your men are making good progress.” The young man was no woodsman or tracker moving about silently, but was lightly built and tread softly. Maybe twenty one years of age at most, he had come into some money in the recent past and had been eager to put it to use.

“Altman Dolet, a good morning t’yeh as well, sir. Aye. They’ll ‘ave the rest of ‘er up by sunset, you can be sure of that.”

Altman nodded to the older man, and pulled a pair of large leather and brass goggles down over his eyes. He stood still and silent, head canted up to inspect the work.

“I’m glad to hear of it. I’ll need you to begin working on the foundry in three days’ time, and we still have the market—”

Waldon’s eyes snapped from him to the tower’s top, where a too-tall stack of stone blocks were teetering. As the two men below watched, stunned, a workman taking several of the blocks stumbled and fell into the stack. Down, down they all came, landing in a mangled heap not three meters from where they stood. Altman stood stock still, a stricken look on his pale face.

Waldon’s bellow rang out, “Oh— Medic! Man down, north-east tower! MEDIC!”

Uneasy murmuring broke out as workmen rushed to the scene. The fallen man lay in a broken pile, but his chest rose and fell. His arm pumped blood from not one, but three compound fractures.

The foreman stepped back to clear the way for the arriving medics, men and women in long, soft leather robes. The lead medic took one look at him and gestured her assistants forward with a stretcher, then stepped in to help them clear stone blocks from the man. Waldon’s face grew ashen as they worked to free him, and a hand dipped into his pocket.

Waldon pulled a four-leafed clover from his pocket and slowly walked to the blood-spattered pile of bricks. He glanced at Altman; he knew the young scientist didn’t care for silly superstitions, but they’d served Sias well. He carefully placed the clover on the spot and backed away. “Of all the rotten, stinkin’ luck …”

Altman visibly shook himself back into action. “The medics will be here in moments, Sias. I’ll look into the accident if you could assist them when they arrive?”

“As sure as rain I will, Mr. Dolet. A’right men, back to it! And don’t let me catch any ‘o you bein’ as careless as Claver there! If he thinks a rest in the medics’ tent’s gonna save his sorry hide for long, he’s got a long, hard lesson ahead! You, get tha’ …”